Once heralded as an innovative strategy to draw in holiday shoppers, the concept of the temporary store, or "pop-up," has quickly become as prevalent as the average corner bodega. Now pop-up stores are more like The Boy Who Cried Wolf: since they appear so often, they've lost their cultural caché and are as expected as any other marketing ploy.
Maybe this is why my ears perked up when I heard about a new pop-up store at luxury British department store Selfridges? for Marmite. Yup, Marmite: That sticky, dark brown paste made from yeast extract, that Brits either love or hate. The Selfridges shops in London, Birmingham, and Manchester will feature 150 different Marmite-inspired products, in turn elevating the brand from supermarket product to hipster must-have. Now that's cool: the perfect mix of high and low.
Such inventiveness got me thinking about other (somewhat maligned) brands that could do something really cool with the pop-up. And who better to benefit during this crazy holiday season than that oft-scorned government agency, The United States Postal Service? The post office is the one place almost everyone has to go during the holidays at least once, so more temporary locations would actually be useful to their customers. Plus, the USPS is an organization that could really employ the pop-up medium for some serious brand realignment — using a fun, festive space to update their image as a dysfunctional, stodgy, unfriendly destination. So here's what we're thinking: A USPS "pop-in." To distinguish the stores from the regular USPS, we would call it USPS Holiday Express, to convey its speed and efficiency.
We'd place a USPS Holiday Express in major city hubs like Bryant Park in Manhattan, Millennium Park in Chicago, Union Station in Washington, DC, as well as in prime location in department stores and at major retailers, such as Macy's and FAO Schwartz, hence the "pop-in" reference. We might also set them up within 24-hour Apple stores.
Following in the footsteps of Black Friday trends (and to beat the mid-day chaos), USPS Holiday Express would be open from 6:00am to 12:00am (to cater to people before and after work).
A wall of sleek, friendly kiosks, called "The Eagle" to represent the speed with which you can mail packages/buy postage, will usher customers in and out of the pop-in store quickly and with little stress. Sleek, oversized drop-off windows will also be featured around the store.
To overcome the image of the USPS as a stodgy, outdated agency, we would offer a limited edition holiday stamp collection with artwork by hot contemporary artists, possibly in partnership with a modern art museum. This artwork will be promoted on the flat-screen TVs adorning the pop-in spaces.
Casually dressed USPS Holiday Express Concierges, similar to Apple Geniuses, will walk around the pop-in store with electronic neck badges that enable them to print/scan postage in seconds. Upbeat, perky and attractive, they will be the complete and utter contradiction of the curmudgeonly postal worker.
As part of a possible Apple partnership, we would create a special USPS app that could be used to print labels and postage right from your home computer or from iPads in the store, so all you need to do is drop off your packages at the USPS location.
For those doing their mailings in the early morning or later at night, there could be an Indicia Coffee Bar.
Now, we're not saying the USPS Holiday Express is guaranteed to soothe the postal service woes of weary holiday shoppers needing to send a fruitcake to Aunt Nan in Nevada. But they certainly couldn't hurt, and they would unquestionably raise the cool quotient — at least temporarily — of a government agency desperately in need of a makeover. And with any luck, the shops might just get other businesses to think "out-of-the-box" (deliberate mail reference) about ways that they can freshen up the pop-up, too.
[For another take on rebranding the USPS, check out this story]